Latest news – Covid report published

Our new research, launched on the 2nd November 2020, explores how disabled lawyers have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our findings show that increased remote working and more flexibility with reasonable adjustments could make the legal profession more accessible.

Click here for more information and links to the report.

Information sharing with networks, firms and organisations

The research findings and recommendations were launched at our conference on the 24th January 2020. You can download the research reports here.

The project was set to conclude in May 2020 but due to the Covid19 pandemic, we continued to deliver roundtable events online to support organisations to learn about the research and discuss the recommendations.

If your network or organisation wishes to discuss the findings and how they can be implemented to improve disability inclusion, please get in touch with Dr Natasha Hirst for more information: HirstN2@cardiff.ac.uk

Report launch and conference, 24th January

We launched our research findings and recommendations on the 24th January 2020 at the British Academy in London. A report of conference will be published in due course. Thank you to all of our speakers and everyone who attended to make the day such a great success.

‘Legally Disabled?’ conference date announced


Interview and survey stages complete

Eight focus groups took place early in 2018 in London, Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham with disabled legal professionals including para-legals, solicitors, barristers, judges, trainees and retirees.

The second stage of the project consisted of 55 one to one interviews. These explored individual experiences in more depth. Analysis of the interviews has been completed, drawing out the key research themes.

Survey stage complete

Our thanks to all who participated in and helped to promote research our two questionnaires: one for disabled people training for or working as Barristers and a second for disabled people training for or working as solicitors or paralegals. This also included those who have since left these roles in the profession.

We received almost 300 responses from people across the profession which enables us to set the qualitative findings against a robust quantitative dataset to show a fuller picture of the experiences of disabled people throughout the profession.

What next?

The report on the initial findings of the research is being drafted and a conference will be held to disseminate and discuss the findings and recommendations. We are coproducing the recommendations with our partners, the Lawyers with Disabilities Division and our Research Reference Group.

We will also be visiting stakeholders to discuss key findings and gather wider feedback on our recommendations. Get in touch if you’d like us to speak to your disability or diversity networks and policy leads.

Future reports, events and talks will be scheduled to disseminate the findings of the research. The full research timetable can be found here.

A Research Reference Group consisting of disabled legal professionals from a diversity of backgrounds have supported us with the ongoing development and implementation of the project.

Thank you to all who have taken part in the interviews and focus groups. Many more have expressed an interest in being involved in other ways. If you haven’t already been in touch and you’d like to be involved, you can reach us on info@legallydisabled.com

Groundbreaking new research

September 2017 marked the launch of an exciting new research project, “Legally Disabled? The career experiences of disabled people in the legal profession in England & Wales: developing future strategies.”

Prof. Debbie Foster of Cardiff University and independent researcher and photojournalist Dr Natasha Hirst will be undertaking this research, the first of it’s kind. The Lawyers with Disabilities Division (Law Society) have been key partners in the development of the project which aims to co-produce research with disabled legal professionals. We are continuing to seek the involvement of other groups across the legal profession.

Funded by the Disability Research into Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) programme, the research will be investigating the barriers and solutions for disabled people across the legal profession.

About “Legally Disabled?”

Not enough is known about the experiences of disabled people in professional occupations. They are largely absent in academic research, their presence, seemingly unexpected. The premise of this project is that disabled people are both ambitious and talented, however, they need to be ‘seen’ and ‘expected’.

The research will investigate and map out the negative and positive experiences, choices and views of qualified disabled people working or seeking to work in the legal profession.

We include people with health conditions and impairments who may not define themselves as being disabled, as well as those who do.

Continue reading “About “Legally Disabled?””

What is Disability?

Who is disabled?

Disability is defined in different ways depending on the context. We explain the Social Model of Disability and introduce the definition provided by the Equality Act 2010, see below.

We understand that many people may not define themselves as disabled but do have conditions which impact on their lives. We aim to include as many people with impairments or health conditions as possible to ensure the research is representative of the wide range of issues and identities within the legal profession.

Continue reading “What is Disability?”

The DRILL Programme

DRILL is a Big Lottery funded five-year long, programme across the four nations of the UK, run by Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, Disability Rights UK, and Inclusion Scotland. The funding is unique and exists to start the process of tackling a significant gap in the literature regarding the lived experiences of disabled people.

DRILL logo in english and welsh

The DRILL programme is led by disabled people in all parts of its structure.  The projects funded must be designed and delivered in full co-production with disabled people. This means that disabled people are equal partners in the research alongside academics or researchers. All projects must be aligned with the Social Model of Disability.

Continue reading “The DRILL Programme”



If you have any queries about the research or would like to get involved in any of the activities then please get in touch on:


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The researchers

Debbie Foster is Professor of Employment Relations & Diversity in Cardiff Business School and Dr Natasha Hirst is an independent photojournalist and researcher. Both researchers are disabled people.

Debbie’s original research focus was public sector employment relations and trade unionism.  However, she became interested in research on disability and employment following a personal experience of long term ill-health and secured ESRC funding to conduct a project that documented the lived experiences of negotiating workplace ‘reasonable’ adjustments.  This has since led to further research projects with trade unions and social partners at the European, national and regional levels. 

She first met Natasha Hirst in her role as Equality Officer for Wales TUC.  Natasha’s role was to develop a new network of trade union equality representatives throughout Wales and Debbie conducted research into equality representative experiences of representing disabled members.  Natasha then moved into photography and journalism, specialising in equalities and politics.

Read about Debbie’s research background on her Cardiff University profile.

More information about Natasha on LinkedIn

Cardiff Business School is a Public Value Business School, working to deliver both economic improvement and social improvement, recognising the role that business and management has to play in tackling some of the grand challenges in contemporary society. 

Debbie and Natasha have previously co-operated on a CARBS Public Value project and set up a blog (with Prof. Ralph Fevre of SOCSI) to highlight disability and employment research at Cardiff: Cardiff Research on Employment & Disability. 

In December 2016 (with Ralph, Prof. Vikki Wass & Prof. Melanie Jones) Debbie and Natasha also co-organised a conference ‘Closing Disability Gaps in Employment’ to coincide with the Government consultation on this subject.

For further information about the funder see the DRILL (Disability Research into Independent Living and Learning) website.

DRILL logo in english and welsh